Little known fact, the super famous soup dumpling joint 鼎泰豐 (Ding Tai Feng) was founded by a Hakka couple. Bonus fact on top of that, when they first started, they weren't even supposed to serve soup dumplings, they sold freaking cooking oil and ran a fried rice restaurant. It was only after someone made a random request did they start to make 小籠包, and well... it was history after that. They turned mega successful, and started pimping soup dumplings left and right until they couldn't make them fast enough. Baller status... achieved.
I've actually wanted to make a post about this place for the longest time, but you know what was stopping me? The fact that I felt they were so grossly overrated and overpriced that I could never bring myself to visit. Now before people flip out and plan out how to crucify me, hear me out. I actually think their soup dumplings are absolutely titillatingly good. There's no question their soup dumplings are the bees knees when it comes to pockets of carb stuffed with pork. The problem that exists is that people have come to make them out to be something their not. Foreigners will travel from all over Asia to try these things, and to be honest... they're not that phenomenally special. So when I say they're overrated, it's not because I think they're lacking, I just don't know if they're worth international acclaim. Problem two is kind of similar in that their pricing is absurd (for Taiwan). At 190 NT ($6) for a steamer of 10, they're more than 3x the going rate as other places. I realize in terms of quality, there's quite a gap, but come on... really? Fuck, if you're making me choose between 32 pockets of above average dumplings and 10 really good ones, I'm going value 10 times out of 10.
In all seriousness though, if you didn't make me pay for it myself, these are pretty much the greatest little treasures ever. Thinly skinned, bordering on transparency, grasping without puncturing is almost a thing of art. The pork is juicy beyond my abilities to describe, and the soup content is immeasurable with traditional soup spoons. Oh lordy, special... they are. Mmm, where am I going with this? I don't know. I want to hate them, I want to love them, I don't know what tell you. I just thought I'd write about the famous little soup dumpling place that everyone loves, and that I haven't visited for years.
Edit: I just realized I never talked about the quality of their fried rice, despite making a tangent about how they were originally a specialty shop. The dish was appropriately oily, and somehow, defying logic, the individual grains stuck together in spite of this coating. Honestly though, I don't know how to evaluate fried rice objectively. It's something that's pretty hard for even amateurs to screw up, so I doubt the chefs at 鼎泰豐 will bust out an unsatisfactory dish. With that said, I finished it without complaints, so it was okay in my book... still overpriced.